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Call to increase statistical collaboration in sports science, sport and exercise medicine and sports physiotherapy
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  • Published on:
    Response to Cleather et al.
    • Andrew Vickers, Attending Research Methodologist Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

    Dr. Cleather and colleagues’ state, “connecting [statistical] abstractions to the real world requires theoretical and practical assumptions that often depend on discipline-specific knowledge.” We agree: that is why our author line includes both sport and exercise scientists, as well as statisticians who have worked with sports and exercise data. Every single author has co-authored empirical work reporting sport and exercise science or medicine. Our interest in practical questions is exactly why we have carefully evaluated and drawn attention to important errors with methods such as those mentioned in the paper.

    Nowhere in our paper did we state nor imply that statisticians should be privileged in any way, nor need they be a part of every study. Our point is simply to collaborate with those who have the expertise to improve the quality of a study. Although our suggestions are far from a panacea for improving sports science and medicine, we believe they are a step in the right direction. Indeed, the improvement of designs and analysis is in no way mutually exclusive of addressing practical considerations and considering philosophically different approaches to analysis. We thank Cleather et al. for providing us with the opportunity to clarify.

    Andrew Vickers
    On behalf on the authors

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Improving collaboration between statisticians and sports scientists
    • Daniel J Cleather, Reader St Mary's University Twickenham, UK/Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (IGDORE)
    • Other Contributors:
      • Will Hopkins, Professor
      • Eric J Drinkwater, Senior Lecturer
      • Petr Stastny, Docent
      • Janet Aisbett, Professor

    Introduction

    We welcome the call of Sainani et al.[1] for greater involvement of statisticians with researchers in sports science. However, effective collaboration requires understanding of context and in sports science research is often exploratory, concerned with small samples or predicated on the need to make practical decisions of relatively low risk. We argue for a collaborative approach that recognises the special needs of sports scientists and end-users of their research.

    Where should statistical methods be published?

    Sainani et al.[1] suggest that statistical methods should be vetted in statistics or general-interest journals before appearing in discipline-specific journals, implying that statistical methods can be evaluated independently of their context. While the mathematical core of statistics may be invariant among most disciplines, connecting these abstractions to the real world requires theoretical and practical assumptions that often depend on discipline-specific knowledge. Beyond that, there are wide philosophical divides among statisticians of frequentist and Bayesian persuasion. Similarly, we have pragmatic considerations like the degree of uncertainty we can accept when making decisions.

    Statistical methods are sometimes developed to answer practical questions to which statisticians are blind. The chemist William Gosset studied the statistics of small sample sizes because he had an interest in barley cultivation arising from...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.